It’s a phrase you hear often, but yet a lot of people, me included, never seem to listen.
Why is it resonating now? Well, as I sit on my poolside hotel bed that we booked as a post marathon treat watching four Englishmen stalk slowly past me to the exit, legs tense, walks resembling John Wayne, I can’t help but feel like an idiot.
Yesterday was the Berlin Marathon, one of the six world major championships. I am in Berlin because last year I set myself a challenge to run all six world majors and I was meant to run it. But a couple of months ago I did something I never really thought I’d do. I… dun dun duuuuun, pulled out! I even sighed as I just wrote that sentence. I’m not a quitter, but recently I have come to realise that I set very high standards for myself. Standards that don’t mean a single thing to anyone else in the world. So why do I keep them? If anyone has the answer, please do send across to me with a stamped addressed envelope – so I can send you a prize if you get the answer right.
Last year I ran the London and New York marathons, literally out of nowhere. I’ve never been into running and decided to sign up for charity on a whim. When I got a place in the London Marathon I was literally thinking ‘I need to do this for the kids’, meaning I’d be running this for the kids with cancer who need the money I was raising. I was running for Teenage Cancer Trust – the corporate charity of my workplace.
I trained hard and put my social life on hold for a few months while I locked myself away in my room. I spent any spare time I had on my favourite river run route, or at the fancy gym I joined. And it paid off – I managed to run a sub 4 hour marathon – literally something I never thought I’d be able to do.
It gave me such a high, that a couple of days after finishing I decided to sign up for the New York Marathon, which took place only a few months later.
So, what happened this year? Life got more fun, but in a different way. I swapped the long runs for long dinners, I swapped the nights in for nights out and weekends were spent eating instead of exercising. I was having fun. I also had a niggling injury from last year, but what really got me was the hot summer, which made it feel pretty impossible to train. I’m a delicate pasty sod, so even the slightest bit of heat makes me feel like I want / need to curl up and die.
Yesterday, we took a wander down the River Spree and I smiled with gritted teeth at all of the Marathon runners sitting in the sunshine, medals around their necks, basking in all their fit and healthy glory. Of course, their achievement filled me with a little joy, but no where near as much as if it was me sitting there, medal dangling into my plate of hearty post marathon grub.
But as I sit here now thinking back on my trip so far – marvelling at everything I have done (that I 100% wouldn’t have done if I’d have run 26.2 miles yesterday), I feel happy and fulfilled. But I have still learned from this. I’m not being hard on myself. I feel like a bit of a fool, but I have realised something. I won’t do that again. I must have wanted (and needed) a year off. Is that a crime? Nope. More to the point, I need to sort out the injury that could get even worse if I continue to run right now.
But the reason I wasn’t letting myself be happy with the decision to quit was because deep down I knew I wasn’t doing it because of the injury. Sure, that should have been a factor – but I remember so clearly my first physio saying to me during my training for London Marathon – “You’re in pain, but I have a feeling you’re going to run it and finish it no matter what.” He was right. At that moment in time I had a determination that has since vanished. Will I ever get it back? Who knows. I hope so.
A little bit of reflection is all you need sometimes. I know running is good for me, both physically and mentally. So will I do my best to cure my injury and strengthen up my weak as shit glutes? Yes. Will I get back to London and research half marathons to take part in towards the end of the year? Definitely. Will I now go and enjoy the rest of my holiday by eating yet more food and drinking more rosé? 100% . So, ciao for now.